Port Authority to Open Stage II Light Rail Transit Project

PITTSBURGH – The modernization of Port Authority’s T light rail transit system reached a major milestone Wednesday, June 2, 2004, when the first new light rail vehicles (LRVs) in 19 years begin revenue service over the new Overbrook Line.

The 5.2-mile Overbrook Line, closed in June 1993 due to deteriorated track bed and bridges, and the purchase of 28 new LRVs are among the major elements of the $386 million Stage II Light Rail Transit Project. The project continues the modernization of Port Authority’s 25-mile T system.

“We are very pleased to open our Stage II project and fulfill a promise made to South Hills communities more than two decades ago to continue transforming an old trolley network into a modern, efficient light rail system,” said Port Authority Chief Executive Officer Paul P. Skoutelas. “The scope of improvements Port Authority is making under Stage II will result in a system with enhanced capacity, service levels, travel times and park and ride opportunities, among other benefits.”

Port Authority customers, Allegheny County Transit Council members, representatives from the Committee for Accessible Transportation and officials from local communities along the Overbrook Line were also in attendance to celebrate the project.

The Stage II project also includes:

  • The expansion and modernization of Port Authority’s Operations Control Center at the South Hills Village Rail Center
  • The construction of new power substations near the McNeilly, Denise, Castle Shannon and Lytle stations and an increase in overhead power to 650 volts systemwide
  • The construction of eight new, ADA-accessible stations along the Overbrook Line and Overbrook Junction, a transfer point between the Overbrook and Beechview lines that will open this Fall
  • Six new gated crossings and improvements to current gated and signalized crossings
  • New signaling and communications equipment, including fiber-optic communication systems and a new public address system
  • More than 2,600 new park and ride spaces.

“This is a landmark day for Port Authority and its customers, many of whom recall riding old streetcars on the Overbrook Line as children,” Skoutelas said. “Those memories remain very vivid today, underscoring the important role transit has played in the evolution of our communities over the years.

“The Stage II project will create new opportunities for those who live in South Hills communities and, along the way, new memories for generations to come,” he added.

The Stage II project will produce a more dynamic light rail system that improves the mobility of Allegheny County residents and thus enhances their quality of life. According to formulas developed by the American Public Transportation Association, the project has supported more than 17,000 jobs and will bring the region $2.2 billion in economic benefits through consumer spending, investments and the generation of business revenues, among other economic stimuli.

The Overbrook Line has been grade separated from the South Busway and entirely double-tracked for the first time, features 11 new bridges and includes eight new ADA-accessible stations: Willow, Memorial Hall, Killarney, McNeilly, South Bank, Denise, Bon Air and Boggs. These eight stations replace 22 stops along the former Overbrook Line, making possible quicker travel times.

Boggs is the northernmost station on the Overbrook Line, which rejoins the Beechview Line at South Hills Junction. Willow, the southernmost station on the Overbrook Line, is located in Castle Shannon Borough and is adjacent to Overbrook Junction, which will facilitate easy transfers when the next phase of the Stage II operating plan is activated this Fall. Until then, customers can transfer between 47L Library – formerly 42L Library – and 42S South Hills Village service at Washington Junction.

On June 2, all 47L Library service will operate via the Overbrook Line and make use of the first of Port Authority’s 28 new light rail vehicles manufactured by Construcciones Y Auxiliar De Ferrocarriles, S.A. and CAF USA, Inc. Port Authority’s 42S South Hills Village service will continue to operate over the Beechview Line until the next phase of the Stage II operating plan is activated this Fall.

When that plan is implemented, rush hour service on the existing 42S Line from South Hills Village will also operate via Overbrook, decreasing travel times for our customers boarding along the 42S Line south of Castle Shannon. Patrons on the existing 42S Line between Downtown Pittsburgh and Castle Shannon will also be served by trains originating at Castle Shannon, thereby substantially increasing the availability of seats for those customers in Mt. Lebanon, Dormont and Beechview.

On Sunday, June 6, 2004, the Port Authority is offering free rides for all those wishing to see and ride the new Overbrook Line. Customers are reminded that only 47L Library cars will operate on the Overbrook Line and that transfers can be made between 42S South Hills Village and 47L Library service at Washington Junction.

The Port Authority’s new rolling stock, its first new LRVs since the current cars began service in 1984, includes bi-motor trucks to enhance operating efficiency, significantly increased diagnostic capabilities, LED displays of approaching stops and more efficient AC propulsion technology, among other features. The remanufactured LRVs, which like the new cars are arriving periodically at the South Hills Village Rail Center, are virtually new vehicles.

A 3,800 square foot addition to Port Authority’s Operations Control Center and the renovation of 2,500 square feet of existing space have made it possible to install state-of-the-art computer hardware and software that will enable more efficient control and monitoring of the T.

The new power substations made it possible earlier this year for Port Authority to operate two-car trains on the Library Line for the first time, further increasing capacity at a time when improvements are expected to attract new riders to the system. The Stage II project is expected to add approximately 13,000 weekday riders to the T by 2015.

The Overbrook Line features gated crossings at Killarney Drive, Sleepy Hollow Road, Grove Road and Poplar Avenue, while gated crossings will also be added at Casswell Drive and Rockwood Avenue along the Beechview Line. Also along the Beechview Line, the Donati Road gated crossing will be improved, and traffic signal improvements will be made at Castle Shannon Boulevard and West Willow Street.

The park and ride improvements in the Stage II project include new facilities at Library (430 spaces) and Bethel Park (286), which opened in March along with new high-platform stations, and a 2,200-space parking garage is scheduled to open in November on the site of the former lower park and ride lot at South Hills Village Station.

“A good transit investment keeps giving back to the community for decades to come,” Federal Transit Administration Administrator Jenna Dorn said. “The new light rail line will contribute to the economic and social vitality of the city of Pittsburgh.”

— PRNewswire